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On the Verge, or The Geography of Yearning



On the Verge, or The Geography of Learning, Court Theatre.

The subtitle describes a fit topography for Eric Overmyer's fanciful 1985 tale of three female Victorian explorers who stumble into the future. Journeying from Terre Haute in 1888 to the terra incognita of 1955, these adventuresses imagine, then uncover, such items as eggbeaters, Cool Whip, Burma-Shave poetry, and rock 'n' roll, meet a tour guide named Mr. Coffee, and improbably rhapsodize over the detritus of our pop culture.

Overmyer's droll look at culture clash carries almost no feminist urgency: the women despise trousers and never mention suffrage, and two of them fit all too well into Father Knows Best. (The third finally doffs her voluminous skirts and gamely presses farther into the future.) If Overmyer had made their uncritical acceptance of a fatuous future and its trivia ironic, his metaphysical travelogue might have had more satirical punch. First performed at the now defunct Body Politic Theater a decade ago, On the Verge still proves a delightfully arch diversion, with its presentational playfulness and abundant love of language--both flamboyant Victorianisms and beatnik slang. But a little of this one-joke whimsy goes a tad too far.

Susan Booth's staging is as ingeniously anachronistic as Overmyer's supple script, from the suspended props in Linda Buchanan's circuslike set to Linda Roethke's time-capsule costumes. Winning work comes from Linda Kimbrough as the most practical, purposeful, and plucky voyager; Ora Jones as the dour conservative who evolves into Pearl Bailey; and Jenny Bacon, sweetly malapropistic as the youngest and most future-obsessed traveler. Christopher Donahue is sly as the even more stereotypical men on this road to the future.

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